There is something magical about the light in autumn. It seems to surround everything with this warm golden halo of contentment. If you asked me what my favourite time of year or weather is, I’d normally say I’m a summer girl. I was raised on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana and I’m never happier than when I’m near, or especially in, the water. I guess after 13 years of living in the United Kingdom I’ve slowly given up any hopes of enjoying what I had been raised to believe was summer weather. I seem to tread through June, July and August patiently knowing that at least in September we will have least one hurrah of Indian summer before autumn sets in properly.
This is where we are now. Mornings aren’t frosty yet but definitely chill and I have the overwhelming craving to make stews and soup. I want to simmer and braise. I want to cook joints of meat and vegetables so slowly the juices caramelize to the colour of the carpet of oak leaves that are starting to dapple the forest floor, serve them with a bottle of rich claret and mop up the drippings from my plate with dense chewy bread. This is the time to make mawneye.
1 1/4 pounds lean lamb, cut into small pieces 1/2 by 1/2 inch
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. butter for sauteing
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry lentils
4 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 cup diced turnip or swede
1 cup currants
2/3 cup coarsely cut figs
Salt and pepper lamb and then brown in melted butter.
Add the cup of chicken broth; gently simmer on very low heat for 45 minutes or until lamb is tender. Do not boil as this will toughen the meat. Drain.
Bring lentils to boil in 4 cups of beef broth, reducing heat to low; simmer for 15 minutes.
Combine cinnamon, salt, basil and stir into diced turnip.
Add turnip, currants and figs to the lentils and cook very slowly for 10 minutes.
Stir lamb into lentils. Turn out into attractive serving bowl and garnish.
You don’t need much to go with this dish other than bread and wine, it is filling enough! If you would like to keep the medieval theme of the meal, feel free to add a salad of young, bitter leaves and herbs dressed with a mustard vinaigrette, just don’t add potatoes as these wouldn’t have been around in Europe until the 16th century. There is no reason you cannot substitue another rich meat for lamb if you prefer. I haven’t tried it yet but I imagine it would be especially lovely with venison. For a vegetarian dish, increase the amount of turnips and swede but I would also stir in a good dollop of Marmite or such to give it more richness.